[cross-posted at the TechLearning blog]

My city’s public library is a wonderful place. It hosts a variety of
well-attended events, has a phenomenal children’s section, and serves as a real
hub for the community. But its formal communications stink.

The very first time that you have an overdue book, the initial notice that
you receive says that failure to pay your fines may result in being turned over
to a collection agency. Ouch. When you request a book,
the notification that the book is in says that failure to pick up the book
promptly will result in a $0.50 fine. Huh? If you
write a letter to the public library’s director highlighting the somewhat
draconian tone of its communications, you receive a letter justifying the
library’s terseness (trust me on this one). So despite all of the great things
that the public library does, you’re still left with a bitter taste in your

Godin reminds us
that every interaction with a customer / client / patron /
stakeholder / visitor is a marketing interaction. It’s
an opportunity for us to build or erode our brand, a chance to increase or
decrease the trust and goodwill of the people with whom we are interacting.

What’s this mean for schools? Well, it means that every time a parent walks
away unhappy from an encounter at school, that’s a marketing interaction. Every
time a teacher has yet another boring lesson, that’s a marketing interaction.
Every time a school board member puts her personal agenda ahead of what’s best
for students, that’s a marketing interaction. Every time a member of the
community walks through an uninviting building, that’s a marketing interaction.
And every time an administrator squanders an opportunity to be a leader rather
than a manager, that’s a marketing interaction.

Schools do a host of wonderful things. But they also engage in a number of
individual and organizational behaviors that chip away at the trust and goodwill
of their internal and external communities. We can bemoan the lack of student
engagement / parent support / community involvement / referendum votes all we
want, but our actions probably led to the problem(s) in the first place. Putting
forth a glossy spin on the surface (We’re the best! Support us!) does
no good if we’re not willing to look at our underlying practices as the
marketing interactions that they are.